Penny reached the end of the tunnel and pressed herself against the corner. Taking only a moment to catch her breath she ducked down and peered around the edge with her gun.
To Penny’s surprise she saw Lin running towards the lead car of a small mag-lev train. In the brief glance Penny gave it before finding Lin she noticed it ended in a passenger car but was mostly container beds in the middle.
Lin fired wildly over his shoulder as he ran the length of the train. The rounds hit the wall above Penny’s head and she sighted up on him. Lin kept on towards the head of the train, but as Penny was about to fire he bolted hard left and the shot hit nothing but air. Lin disappeared between the train’s cars, about two cars down from the end.
Then Penny saw the entire train light up. Lin must have activated it via remote. Penny ran at the last car, emptying her rifle as she shot out a window and dived inside.
Penny landed in a roll, the crunch of plexiglass crystals punctuated her arrival. She ended the roll on one knee, her rifle up and scanning for targets.
Penny swept the car and was relieved to find she was alone. She stood up and looked back out the window as the constabulary rounded the tunnel corner after her.
Then with a lurch the whole train began to move.
The constables watched as Lin’s train pulled away from them and took Penny with it.
Penny checked her rifle and dumped her empty barrels. The barrage she’d shot into the train window had burned through a lot of her ammo. Penny reached for the bandolier around her torso and emptied it into her rifle.
Her weapon replenished Penny made her way to the door dividing this car from the next.
Just as she was reaching for the button to open the door the sound of the air rushing past them changed and for a moment the whole car became weightless.
Penny realised the mag-lev train must have jumped the tracks. In the next moment she was thrown to the floor as the train was caught by the electromagnetic field of the new track.
Penny cursed and pulled herself back to her feet. She opened up the door at the end of the compartment and a wall of wind hit her square in the face. The sudden rush forced Penny back a step, but the motivated Ranger pushed through the wind and stepped outside.
As she did, the tunnel receded, blinding Penny for a moment with the sudden burst of sunlight. The visor of her helmet darkened to compensate, allowing Penny’s eyes to adjust.
Right in front of her, on the first flatbed carriage was a large shipping container covered in chemical warnings. Penny stepped across to the flatbed and pulled herself in close to the container.
At point-blank range Penny’s chemical sensor picked up on the traces of the refining agent stabilising the kerium. Penny filed that away in the back of her mind. This train must have always been Lin’s escape plan, along with his ill-gotten gains.
Penny pressed herself up against the back of the container and swung her gun around the side, fighting against the rushing wind as the mag-lev train hurtled down the track at incredible speed. Through the weapon’s camera she could see Lin moving carefully across the roof of a container two carriages down.
He’d put his pistol away and Penny hoped that meant he hadn’t realised she was on board with him.
Backing up as far as she could Penny slipped her rifle onto her back and ran at the container. Penny jumped, kicked off the container door and climbed as high as she could before grabbing onto the edge of the roof and pulling herself up on top.
The wind drowned out all other sounds as Penny’s head cleared the edge and she pulled herself onto the roof. Then Penny heard the sleek pulse of ship engines and looked up. Ravenwing sailed overhead. The freighter gently slid out to the side of the train as the two sped through the air.
Penny got on her comms to Wu. [I know I told you to stay in that chair. I thought it went without saying that the chair was supposed to stay put too.]
[It’s not me.] Wu thought back. [It’s Mac. He’s taken control of the ship.]
Penny was about to remark on the likeliness of that when Wu suddenly shouted. [Ranger! Get down!]
Quickly Penny ran across the roof to jump down into the gap between the train cars. Up on the Ravenwing a small turret emerged from under the hull and a pair of twin-linked machineguns opened fire.
Penny landed between containers and scrunched into a ball behind a corner.
[He’s coming around.] Wu said. [Please Ranger, turn off my collar. I can help you.]
Penny hesitated, for all she knew Wu was the one flying the ship. And turning off the collar would only let him fly away to freedom after he’d shot her full of holes.
Penny saw the ship move out from behind the container and knew she had no choice.
[Removing last directive.] Penny said.
Up on the bridge of the Ravenwing Wu heard the sweetest words he’d ever known. He’d cut through his bonds minutes ago, ready for this moment.
As quickly as he could Wu jumped to his feet, threw off his ropes and launched himself at Mac with the shard of broken glass.
In the reflection of the console’s screen Mac saw Wu at the last second and spun around with his arms up. Just in time to put his forearm in the way of Wu’s improvised knife.
The glass sunk into Mac’s arm and the big man brought his boot up and kicked Wu away. Wu skipped back with the impact and landed in his stance.
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